Most forums default to the classic “forum, sub-forum paradigm” whereby threads are divvied up by topics such as “News & Announcements”, “Tech Support”, “The Sports Zone”, “Off Topic Discussion”, etc. We believe this approach is flawed.
We’ve found that what determines a thread’s relevance is not it’s category but it’s title and content. That’s why Ninja Post forum software defaults to a “melting pot” approach whereby ALL threads are ranked based on a combination of their popularity (How many replies does the thread have?) and their decay (How old is the thread?). The more popular and more recent a thread is, the more likely it is to stay at the top of the board.
It’s not unusual for users to feel paralyzed when processing an array of sub-forums. Let’s say a user comes to your forum for the first time. Rather than going straight to a list of recent threads, he or she is presented with a list of sub-forums. Where should he or she begin if he or she wants to post a new thread? Should the thread go in the most popular sub-forum that everyone reads or should it go in another sub-forum that is less popular but more appropriate? This feeling of indecisiveness is one that Ninja Post prevents.
In another example, let’s say you run a forum dedicated to sports. You probably have really popular sub-forums dedicated to Football, Basketball, and Baseball, and less popular sub-forums dedicated to other sports like Golf, Bowling, and Ping Pong. Well, if a really sensational Bowling story came about it deserves attention and it should not be pigeonholed in a sub-forum that no one visits.
Ninja Post’s approach to sub-forums is similar to Google’s decision to avoid using folders in Gmail. Like Gmail, we too allow users to tag threads, which makes it possible to filter threads based on a given topic, should the need arise.
We believe that our ultra simple “relevance algorithm” which ranks threads based on popularity and decay, coupled with tags and a fast and effective search functionality is a better way to organize the community’s discussion in lieu of sub-forums. This approach fits snugly with our desire to simplify and improve the user experience.